Track Cycling

From tsunami survivor to cycling star of many firsts, Deborah hopes ‘toxic atmosphere’ in Indian team will change – The Indian Express

INDIAN CYCLING pioneer Deborah Herold believes that her national team stint under coach R K Sharma and his assistant Gautamani Devi during which, she alleged, she was “slapped”, “ridiculed” and “harassed” were some of the “toughest” and “most challenging” days of her life.

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That’s saying a lot — considering what the 27-year-old from the Andaman and Nicobar islands had undergone before she took to the tracks for India.

On December 26, 2004, her village Kakana was washed away in the tsunami. Deborah, nine years old then, climbed a palm tree and hung on for nearly five days before she was rescued by a search party.

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Once life returned to some sort of normalcy, she started cycling to her new school and began to enjoy the activity. In 2009, she attended a selection camp organised by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) in Port Blair and got picked.

From that moment on, she has been a trailblazer in Indian cycling.

Deborah was included in the national team.

After winning the 2012 Nationals, Deborah was included in the national team. In the 2013 Asian Championships, she became the first Indian woman to win a medal in an individual event in the junior 200m sprint category. A year later, she came to the limelight by winning four gold medals in the women’s elite category of the Track Asian Championship.

In 2015, she achieved another first for an Indian by climbing to world number 4 in individual ranking in 500m time trial event. And in 2016, she became India’s first individual cyclist to qualify for the Track Cycling World Championships, an event where only the top 20 cyclists in the world made the cut.

Now, with Sharma’s contract terminated, following serious allegations of sexual harassment levelled by another top Indian cyclist, Herold, the national champion, hopes to return to the team. “No one has been able to break my timing. I will participate in trials for the Track Asia Cup. Whether they select us or not, is up to them,” she said.